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Thread: Unknown Airmans grave? or is it?

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    Default Unknown Airmans grave? or is it?

    This thread has come about from a post I added at the beginning of February.

    Unknown war graves? Or are they?

    This is a question i would like to throw out to everyone.
    I have been researching the loss of a Halifax V LK635 of 428 Sqn RCAF 6 Group bomber command on 22/23 Sept 1943. Aboard was my wife's great uncle F/Sgt James Wright RAF.
    LK635 was one of 26 bombers lost that night in a raid on Hanover. But she was listed as lost without trace. A short while ago "Mosquito" made contact with me, he has located 4 graves amongst his archives that state "An Airman of the 1939-1945 war, 22 September 1943". it seems that LK635 is the only aircraft that a crashsite cannot be allocated and those 4 graves are the only graves that he cannot atribute to a particular aircraft.
    In order to verify his research we must firstly know the original burial place for these men, before they were re interned in Hanover.
    Now I have been in touch with the CWGC and according to them under the Data protection act and the freedom of information act they will not give out the original burial place. But one cancels out the other or is that just too simplistic? from looking at the internet i am almost certain they do hold this information.
    I know that it is impractical to maybe exhume these bodies and this is not my intention but having these men unknown for 65 years it would be fitting to show that there is a possibility of their names being known. if they are from LK635 then the other 3 crew were not found or are still in the aircraft, this throws up many more problems.
    Having the burial places would not contravene the data protection act surely but it would give some more to work with.
    Has anyone come across this problem during their research? Has anyone overcome any beaurocracy of this kind? Or does anyone know what my next step should be?
    I have been told to contact my MP which i suppose is the first step when Goverment legislation is the problem, but i would be very grateful for any other suggestions.
    From reading posts on this forum I know there are some very knowledgeable members on here and hopefully some one can help.

    Thanks in advance of any answers

    Nick

  2. #2
    Bart FM Droog Guest

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    Hello Nick,

    The oldest brother of my father is also missing. Not MIA, but missing as a victim of a nazi concentration camp. His case can't be solved, just as the case of you're wife's great uncle, I'm afraid. You'll just have to live with it.

    But... there are many other MIA's who can be connected to unknown soldiers/airmen/sailors graves. Try to focus you're attention to those cases, as a tribute to you're wife's great uncle.

    Regards,

    Bart

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    I would immediately bring in your MP and possibly copy in any relevant sectretaries of state. I know why the CWGC are keeping back the info, their policy ever since their creation as the Imperial War Graves Commision has been not to attempt to identify remains and only display idenitifcation where it was clearly given by the military burial units. They would not like the possibility of someone saying openly 'i think i know who is in that hole'.

    I notice that three of the crew were Canadian, you could try asking Veterans Affairs Canada if they hold any information since there is a significant possibility that the buried men were Canadian.

    If you take this further it may just be best to say that you are trying to locate the crash site rather than the people involved in the crash. That would justify the request for original burial location with out upsetting the powers that be as regards identification.
    Alan Clark

    Peak District Air Accident Research

    http://www.peakdistrictaircrashes.co.uk/

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    Default I may be able to help

    Nick:

    If still trying to resolve this issue, e-mail me direct at
    footless@mts.net

    (Floyd)
    Winnipeg/Canada

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    Hi Nick
    I would suggest that you see if the NA at Kew have any searchable files from a late war and post war organisation known as the "Missing Research and Enquiry Service". If it wasn't purely RAF then RAF sections of this seem to have operated throughout the world from c1945-1948 attempting to locate and identify all Air Force personnel. From the Casualty File of an Australian Bomb Aimer that I looked up it is clear that their work included exhumations as part of the process of Identification(sadly not always successful). As you seem to be dealing with the possibility that "your"crew were buried as "Unknown" and later re-interred, there must be a chance that they were examined during the process of transfer and a record of this could still exist and at least include an indication of where they were transferred from. I don't think that the service was part of the old Imperial War Graves Commission but certainly acted partly on it's behalf and reported back to it, any of it's records could therefore be held separately.
    Regards
    Dick

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    Many thanks for all the suggestions.

    i intend to contact my MP but i am not sure what good it will do (not sure how much he would be able to claim as expenses!!!!) but will try.

    in my requests i may have not made it clear to the CWGC that it is not that i am looking to dig up any bodies but just recognition for these men. the original burial place would be a crucial piece of information. so it may have been a hastie request and not very well worded.
    I have done a search on the NA site for "Missing Research and Enquiry Service" it returned 445 results so will e-mail them to see if they can narrow it down for me. but i think my original post on 2/2/2008 was the result of one of these records. Will be checking with the pilots brother.

    Bart i can well understand what you mean. As a family we were very lucky ( depending how you look at it) in the 2 world wars as we lost 3 in the services. but of these 3, all have no known graves. A soldier in WW1, a MN cook (aged 17) on the Russian convoys and this Airman. i would not like to think i am belittling anyones sacrafice but as the information comes in the more i feel that i can correct the balance.

    Footless: have e-mail you. Cheers
    thanks again for all replies if anyone else can add to these it would be appreciated.

    regards

    Nick

  7. #7
    Bart FM Droog Guest

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    Hello Nick,

    I understand - it's just that because of what <a href='http://forum.12oclockhigh.net/showthread.php?t=12298'>Andy Saunders wrote on TOCH</a> your quest seems to me as being a 'mission impossible'.

    But well, as we say in Dutch: 'If you don't shoot, you will miss', so good luck!

    Regards,

    Bart

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    Default So-called unknown airmen's graves

    Nick,

    The key evidence you seek should be found in the brief "Graves Concentration Report" written by the graves registration unit which exhumed the airmen's remains for reburial in the war cemetery. The problem is that even if the CWGC admits to having this report, they probably won't let you know of its content...without you putting up a stink, that is. BUT IT IS POSSIBLE.

    I lucked out in a very similar case, after a protracted battle. In 1993 at Rangoon War Cemetery a fellow traveler, by pure coincidence, happened upon 7 graves in a row, each identified as "An Airman of the 1939-1945 War, Royal Air Force, 29th February 1944, Known Unto God". My mom's first husband, Sgt George Plank, was one of 12 missing 159 Squadron Liberator airmen who had been shot down on that leap year night (Liberators BZ926 and BZ962), so I suspected that these graves very well might be 7 of the 12, if not 7 of the 9 missing men from BZ962, George's Lib. Officially these 12 men were missing, and each bomber's wreckage had never been located.

    I wrote to the CWGC. I was told that they had no records whatsoever which could prove any connection between the 7 "unknowns" and the 159 Squadron missing from 29 Feb '44.

    Armed with more evidence, I tried again five years later, and this time the Director-General (no longer with the CWGC) claimed that a Graves Concentration Report (GCR) for BZ962 crew remains had just been located. It identified the map grid coordinates and village names for the two locations, about 1700 yards apart, where local villagers had buried 7 crewmen from BZ962 after their 29 Feb '44 shootdown. The direct link to BZ962 was made. But the Director-General said he couldn't provide a copy of the report, or more details.

    I persisted. He provided more details but said he was bound by MoD guidelines and couldn't release more. I pestered him again, and he provided another tidbit. But that was it, he said, bound, as he was, by MoD guidelines.

    I called upon an influential contact, a then-active Air Chief Marshal who has since retired. He used his influence to cut through the red tape like butter, and in no time I was sent a photocopy of the actual GCR! It contained some further valuable evidence that the CWGC had chosen to withhold from me.

    My sincere apologies, but I think I must keep the ACM's name out of this, as it was a huge personal favor to me from an extremely busy man, and I don't think it would be appropriate for me to mention him by name.

    However, if this approach worked for me, perhaps it will work for you. I recommend not just contacting your MP, but finding senior RAF or RCAF officers who might have some influence in winning the release of this most basic information. Maybe someone reading this can put you in touch with a high-ranking officer, active or retired??

    As usual, this game that the UK plays with its secrecy is absurd. I know that many GCRs for Australian prisoners on the Burma-Siam Death Railway were fairly recently given to the National Archives of Australia. I have even seen these on-line, while perusing RAAF casualty files that had been scanned and put on the web. Yet the CWGC still won't allow access to the GCRs it maintains...and doesn't publicize the fact that these records exist.

    I agree with Al Clark's suggestion to get in touch with Canada. Floyd Williston will help you here. The personnel files of the three Canadians on James Wright's crew will contain a ton of information. Lots of documents that you'll have no interest in, but possibly some grave-related info. The problem is that these files are so thick, and to order a copy of each file's entire contents will be very costly...and nothing more than a gamble, at best. Maybe Floyd can put you in touch with one of his Ottawa pals, who might go through the files for you and make only selected copies...saving you a few quid.

    Stuart Hadaway of the RAF Museum has written a book about the Missing Research & Enquiry Service's search for RAF remains after the war. It is titled "Missing Believed Killed: Casualty Policy and the Missing Research and Enquiry Service". Due out maybe in June, via Pen and Sword Publishing. Maybe this book will give you a few clues.

    Good luck, and be persistent with the CWGC. Tell them that you know they should have a GCR (although there is always the chance that it is missing...), and that you know the type of specific info you seek has been released previously.

    Regards,

    Matt

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    Default 428 Squadron Halifax LK-635

    I will be going to Ottawa in April. I will request the RCAF aircrew files to see what information may be held.
    richard

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    Firstly many thanks for the replies Matt & Richard.

    Matt just did a search for "Graves Concentration Report" and found the article on
    Flight Lieutenant JF Luing 121527 RAVR. very interesting reading. well done. as i have only really just got going with my research it looks as though i have a long way to go. will try all the suggestions that everyone has offered.

    Richard: i would be eternally grateful if you manage to look up the crew reports for me. but please do not put yourself out on my behalf. i am sure you will have other more important things to do on your trip.

    it seems to me that the CWGC has many records or details that would identify these graves but not to sound too selfish, i cannot for the life of me figure out their reasoning. they did say they were tied by MOD rules.

    Cheers all

    Nick

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